Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Movie review: War Game 229 燃燒吧!歐吉桑

Veteran actors make impressive appearances in ‘War Game 229,’ but their performances are weighed down by mediocre production values and sloppy acting by young pop stars

By Ho Yi  /  Staff Reporter

War Game 229 puts together a fine cast of veteran actors, but has too many faults to warrant much attention.

Photo Courtesy of Applause Entertainment

The dwindling of juan cun (眷村), or military dependents’ villages, has recently become an inspiration for many artistic endeavors.

Television producer Wang Wei-chung’s (王偉忠) successful television drama The Story of Time (光陰的故事) and sold-out theatrical production The Village (寶島一村) are two examples that immediately come to mind.

Now the disappearing culture of veterans’ communities has been translated onto the silver screen by local filmmakers eyeing both the past and present. Seasoned director Lee You-ning’s (李祐寧) Four Hands (麵引子), which hit local cinemas earlier this month, is an historical melodrama that deals with a Chinese Nationalist army veteran who goes back to China to visit what’s left of his family. Mostly set in the atmospheric Treasure Hill Artist Village (寶藏巖國際藝術村), the film is nevertheless a lachrymose disappointment starring Wu Hsing-kuo (吳興國), who delivers an embarrassingly exaggerated performance.

On a completely different note, War Game 229 (燃燒吧!歐吉桑), the feature debut by photographer and documentary filmmaker Huang Chien-liang (黃建亮), is a fast-paced movie whose action centers on airsoft games.

The main players in the film are five veterans who fled from China to Taiwan with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops in the late 1940s. After decades in a military residential compound, the aged veterans are the last holdouts and find themselves facing eviction. Meanwhile, members of a champion airsoft team find out about the place and make what they think is an abandoned village into a practice field.

Piqued by the intrusion, the five experienced soldiers decide to fight back and defend their home turf.

Attired in genre trappings, the film revolves around the motif of home. To the veterans who retreated to Taiwan and now face a second relocation, home is never something taken for granted. The 20-somethings play combat games, but the former soldiers know too well that to lose a battle can mean losing your home.

Film Notes

War Game 229


Directed by: Huang Chien-liang (黃建亮)

Starring: Ting Chiang (丁強) as Li Ching, Chien Te-men (乾德門) as Kung Fan-chung, Tieh Meng-chiu (鐵孟秋) as Chiang Ming, Lin Mei-chao (林美照) as Aunt Wang, Tender Huang (黃騰浩) as Hacker

Running time: 100 minutes

Language: Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

Taiwan release: Today

Greatly supported by a fine cast of veteran actors who rarely make appearances in today’s television programs and movies, War Game 229 shows promise as an excellent work of entertainment. It gives the memory of the past a creative, new reading, showing that the heavy subject of history can also be approached with humor, action and excitement. Unfortunately, mediocre production values prevent the work from rising beyond the quality of television drama. War Game 229 has plenty of bright ideas, but its director chose to rush the story rather than allow space for the ideas to evolve.

A final blow comes in the form of feeble performances by young pop idols, including models-turned-actors Tender Huang (黃騰浩) and Jenna Wang (王思平).

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